A WILD cat-like mammal leaped at a father-of-two and bit his hand as it tried to attack his quails in the garden of his Halesowen home.

The unusual-looking predator has been identified as an Asian palm civet and is on the loose in the Kenswick Drive area of the town.

The creature stayed in the garden of Rachel and Dan Bennett for about three hours trying to break its way into the quail pen before giving up and disappearing into the darkness.

The nocturnal mammal sometimes called a “weasel-cat”, appeared unperturbed by the amazed couple watching it from close quarters.

But after around 10 minutes it suddenly launched itself from the top of the pen sinking its teeth into Mr Bennett’s hand.

It left four puncture marks which needed hospital treatment and the Zion Christian Centre pastor and his wife made a hasty retreat indoors.

Mrs Bennett, a 38-year-old teaching assistant, said her husband, aged 39, had gone to put the quails away for the night, but rushed back to the house to report their four-legged intruder last Friday.

She said: “We both went down the garden and stood about a meter away from it. We didn’t have a clue what it was and it was trying to break through the mesh to get at the quails.”

The couple rang the RSPCA and the police and eventually a wildlife expert from Burton-on-Trent offered to come out with traps – but discovered they had been stolen.

Police arrived shortly after 11pm, moments after the animal disappeared through the gardens.

An RSPCA spokesman confirmed it appeared to be an Asian palm civet, which are kept by some people as exotic pets in this country.

He said the likelihood was that it had either escaped or been released.

“We have concerns about the keeping of these animals as pets, as they are wild animals and have same needs as they would have in their natural wild environment,” he added.

They are at risk in their native environment from being caught for bush meat, the pet trade and civet farms producing kopi luwak coffee – the most expensive in the world, which sells in London for £60 a cup.

The civet climbs coffee trees to find the best berries, eats them and eventually the coffee beans come out in its stools as complete beans. Coffee farmers harvest the droppings and take the beans to processing plants, but there is a growing trade in which they are caged and force-fed the beans.